Saint Rafael Arnaiz Baron: Will We Follow Him?

In a letter to his aunt on the 16th of November 1935, Saint Rafael Arnaiz Baron wrote about the frustration he felt with respect to the great need the world has for God’s love, but the reluctance people have to open their hearts and respond to it – that the cure for our ills is before us all the time but we are so preoccupied with satisfying any number of petty, selfish desires that we block out the voice calling us to be healed. Saint Rafael likewise laments his insignificance, and the tension between his desire to call the world to love God and his inability to effect any change in people’s hearts – though he knew that it is not our arguments that convert our neighbour but the grace of God, he was at this time suffering the common anxieties that stem from an inability to be reconciled to our limitations as human beings and trust in God alone.

In a deeply moving passage, he then continues to consider the people who Our Lord and His disciples passed during the years of His ministry, and the many who heard His preaching and teaching only to remain unmoved. When I first read this, I thought of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (perhaps because of the upcoming Solemnity of Christ the King being on my mind) but Saint Rafael no doubt intended his meditation to apply to all the times at which Jesus and His disciples were surrounded by crowds, large and small. Rafael’s description of the joyfulness of the Apostles upon the addition of a new member to their group is wonderful to read, especially given the sorrow expressed earlier in the letter, and the tender love that he depicts as emanating from the glance of Our Lord is acutely affecting.

Furthermore, the simplicity of the response desired that Saint Rafael describes is greatly moving, as it reminds us that God does not ask of us any great works or eloquent words. He does not look to be impressed or coerced into loving us – He loves us already, because that is who He is, and all He asks is that we love Him in return and love others as He does. The question is though, will we follow Him? Whilst Our Lord Jesus walked past those in the crowds of Judea and Galilee, His glance then was but a temporary thing; but His eternal gaze remained upon them, on all people before and thereafter, and remains upon us now – His look is one of Love, and the offer to follow Him is always open:

How sad those people make me who, seeing the procession of Jesus and his disciples, remain unmoved. What joy must the apostles and friends of Jesus have felt every time a soul opened its eyes, left everything and joined them in following the Nazarene – he who asked for nothing else but a little love. Will we follow him, my dear sister? He sees our intentions and looks at us, smiles and helps us. There is nothing to fear; we will go to be the last in the procession that traverses in silence the Judean countryside yet sustained by a very great, immense love. He has no need of words. We don’t have to raise ourselves to his level for him to see us. We have no need of great works or of anything that attracts attention: we shall be the least of Jesus’ friends but those who love him most.

Excerpt taken from Spiritual Writings, courtesy of Daily Gospel.

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